Did you know that Vitamin C is the most popular vitamin taken by Canadians? And yet, most people don’t really understand the importance of vitamins or the role they play in our health. In addition, there are a lot of unsubstantiated claims about the miraculous powers of this essential nutrient. Read on!

What are Vitamins?


Vitamins are substances that are found in foods we eat. Your body uses vitamins to do hundreds of things, like help you grow, heal and develop. It needs vitamins to help your blood clot when you get a cut or a gash. Some vitamins help to make energy. Vitamins are even involved in making sure we see in color – without them, the world would look simply dreadful in just black and white and gray. We’d be colorblind! And, if you’ve ever wondered what helps make your teeth healthy and strong, then be sure to smile when you know the answer! Why? Because its … vitamins!

There are two kinds of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. When you eat foods that contain fat-soluble vitamins, the vitamins are stored in the fat tissues in your body and in your liver. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all the fantastic fat-soluble vitamins!

Water-soluble vitamins are very different. They travel through your bloodstream. They like to travel quickly, compared with the fat-soluble vitamins. And whatever your body doesn’t use comes right out when you urinate. So these kinds of vitamins need to be replaced often, since these vitamins don’t like to hang around! This crowd of vitamins includes the amazing Vitamin C!

  What is Vitamin C?
  If you really want gums and teeth that are healthy and strong, bite into Vitamin C! This vitamin also strengthens your muscles and bones, and it helps you heal if you break a bone or get a scrape or a gash. This vitamin also helps your body resist infection. This means that even though you can’t always avoid getting ill, Vitamin C reduces that risk. Along with many other vitamins, Vitamin C plays an important role in keeping you in optimal health. Without it you just won’t feel your best!  
  Why is Vitamin C important?  

Vitamin C helps to form the protein called collagen. Collagen is the basis on which bone is formed. It forms scars; when you are wounded, collagen glues the separated tissue faces together. Cells are also held together by collagen. So Vitamin C works like a super glue-keeping it all together!

Vitamin C is antioxidant. That means that Vitamin C is like a bodyguard for oxidizable substances; it will sacrifice it’s own life to save the life of healthy cells.

Did you know that this nutrient promotes the absorption of iron? It’s true and important, as iron is vital to our health.

Vitamin C is needed to regulate the rate of metabolism. The foods you eat get burned up or metabolized and used as fuel for energy and to repair damage from injury and disease. For example, infections and exposure to colds increase needs for Vitamin C.

  What happens if you don’t have Vitamin C?  

Two hundred and fifty years ago, any man who joined the crew of a seafaring ship knew he had only half a chance to return alive. Not because he might be slain by pirates or die in a storm, but because he might contract the dreaded disease called scurvy. As many as two-thirds of a ship’s crew might die of scurvy on a long voyage. It was not known at the time but scurvy occurred because the ship’s cook used up all the fresh fruits and vegetables early during the trip thus preventing the seamen from getting Vitamin C for the duration of the voyage.

Two of the earliest signs of Vitamin C deficiency are gums that bleed easily and capillaries under the skin that break easily. Later, the skin becomes rough, brown, scaly and dry. Wounds fail to heal. Fractures in the bone occur and teeth loosen.

  How much Vitamin C do we need?  

The minimum requirement – the amount of Vitamin C needed to prevent symptoms of scurvy is 10 mg a day. Canadian recommendations are for 60 mg per day and some people even recommend doses up to 2000 mg! However, it is known that at 100 mg all tissues are saturated (filled up) and extra Vitamin C is excreted.

There are some medical conditions when extra Vitamin C is needed – for example if someone suffers extensive burns – then a tremendous amount of scar tissue must form during healing. Vitamin C is vital for these situations.

Is it possible to take too much Vitamin C, as an overdose? There is absolutely no evidence that taking too much Vitamin C is harmful since excess is excreted in our urine.

  Do most people get enough Vitamin C?  

Since scurvy is very rare in Canada, we can say that most people get the minimum amount of Vitamin C required. However, those who believe in the magical health benefits of Vitamin C, claim that most people are not taking enough for optimum health.

According to the findings of a study at the National Institute of Health, most people should be taking 200 mg a day. This amount of Vitamin C can be obtained from a diet containing five daily servings fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, less than 15% of children and adults actually eat such a diet.

  What are some common myths about Vitamin C? Is Vitamin C a miracle Vitamin?  

Vitamin C has been credited with curing asthma, cancer and the common cold. But is it true?

When the data from clinical trials about the effects of Vitamin C, the treatment and the prevention of the common cold were reviewed, the results were not found to be promising. These reviews showed that the effects if Vitamin C were small – if any.

As for cancer treatment when Vitamin C was given to 60 cancer patients and a placebo to another 60, both groups of patients worsened and died at the same time.

Vitamin C has been suggested to reduce asthma, arthritis, strokes and heart attacks. However, none of these have been proven true.

  History of Vitamin C:  

1700s: Highly fatality rate of ships crew to scurvy.

1747: Dr. James Lind devised an experiment to see what substance would keep seamen healthy. He found giving them limes cured scurvy in a very short time.

1928: Vitamin C isolated by Hungarian biochemist Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi.

1959: James McCormick found an association between Vitamin C and cancer.

1970: Dr. Linus Pauling proposed regular intake of Vitamin C in amount for higher than previously recommended.

2002: Lancet reports on research pm 20 000 people – “Vitamins useless in fight against diseases!” was the headline.

  What is the best way of preserving Vitamin C?  

Vitamin C loss occurs with storage and in cooking. Rapid cooking with very little water and served immediately is the best way to preserve Vitamin C. Cooking methods such as steaming and microwaving will result in less vitamin C loss. Organically, grown produce is the same as non-organic produce in vitamin content. Canned fruits and vegetables lose some of their Vitamin C value. By contrast, frozen fruits and vegetables lose very little of Vitamin C.

To best protect Vitamin C content, fruits and vegetables should be vine ripened, chilled after picking and kept cold until they are used.

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